Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been picking up on a bit of a theme coming from marketers of every stripe. Planners, suits and creatives all seem to be saying something about innovation, products and the digital space. But what?
Patricia McDonald over at planninginhighheels.com wrote a great post about how marketing has changed over the years. She makes the point that whereas once upon a time, marketing was a science involving assessing a marketplace and then understanding which combination of four ‘levers’ – the ‘4 Ps’: Product, Price, Place and Promotion – to pull to best drive a brand or product forward, it has become preoccupied with the fourth P: Promotion.
Her point is that the ‘digital world’ takes many of the cost and infrastructure problems out of ‘product, place and price’ and therefore gives back the opportunity to marketers to influence much more than just the promotional message: they can profoundly influence their businesses, transforming processes, developing new products, innovating and thinking radically.
Rei Inamoto, AKQA’s Chief Creative Officer makes an interesting point in an opinion column for Contagious Magazine. His piece is about mobile, and, broadly, about how we (the agency world) should stop using it as a promotional channel and start using mobile the way it works best: as a medium that is USED. However, he uses uses a great example to illustrate his point, which also happens to back up Patricia’s thinking: imagine if Kodakhad come up with Instagram. It’s a perfect fit for them. It would have provided a new avenue to engage customers, raised awareness of the brand amongst a demographic that barely remembers analogue photography and what a giant Kodak was in that era, AND provided a revenue stream. Truly disruptive innovation.
Then, to get the agency triumvirate, we have Peter Bardell, Senior Account Director at McCann London. Again in an opinion piece for Contagious Magazine, Peter talks about the danger of chasing the next technical ‘big thing’ and checking boxes: too many agencies look for the next big thing to sell their clients. Social media? Check. Gamification? Check. Instead, technology should be used when it has a genuine purpose. So, instead of hiring technical gurus, Peter says, we (the agency world) should be hiring people who have ideas across all disciplines. In other words, innovators. Of course, that’s not to say that technical gurus can’t be innovators, more that the technical savvy should be accompanied by an innovative mindset. With that in mind, in their mock pitch McCann ask candidate employees not to present a campaign, but to pitch ‘an idea, no parameters’.
They’re all right, of course. Thinking of marketing purely in terms of promotion of a product wastes the talent of marketers on both client and agency sides, but, whilst the pace of technical change IS giving us the opportunity to disrupt, innovate and influence much more, many businesses still aren’t set up to harness that. At Better Things I’m surrounded by creative people – and I don’t just mean people who can make something look beautiful, I mean people who can think creatively and INNOVATE. When we get a client brief, we often come up with ideas that involve changing a product or process, but so often the marketing team at the client end are not empowered to do anything with those ideas – what they want is a solid response to the brief, and the brief often states not only the promotional message, but often the preferred channel. A business structure in which the client side marketing team are empowered to influence the whole business might well be Mad Men era marketing, but it’s also the future.
Oh and if you’re interested in creating culture of innovation at your business have a read of Schumpeter at The Economist on Cley Christensen.
This post originally appeared on my work blog, here.